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Meg Otanwa: The Choices of the African Girl Child

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What exactly goes through your mind as you take a look at this picture? Do not try to control your thoughts. Just pause for a second, and keep looking at the picture. What comes to mind?

I know some of you are like “hian does she have to show her belly like this?” Some will say, “another wayward actress trying to sell her market.” Others will say, “nice picture” or “nice hair.” Someone else will probably say, “she is not even fine.”

As humans, our opinions and perceptions are based on a number of things like age, culture and religious beliefs. These largely and subconsciously affect our perception of things around us and life in general. We do not intend or plan to be this way, it just happens.

What I see in this picture is a woman who evolved from a strong African girl child, who against all odds is mending her broken wings one take at a time and won’t let anything or anyone come between her and her dreams. That is the spirit of the girl child who grows into the force known as the African woman.

Africa is one of the toughest places for the girl child to exist. Her actions and inactions are constantly under scrutiny by people who matter or/and don’t matter to her existence.

The place of the African woman in a modern traditional society is that which is as paradoxical as the word itself “modern-traditional”. What is expected of her culturally is the exact same as what hinders her in today’s society that keeps pushing boundaries and norms.

She grows up learning how to cook, clean, respect her elders and take care of everyone around her but herself. She is taught that as a woman she must not be “’too ambitious “else it will scare men away. She learns to stoop for the fear of dwarfing others, she is taught to often keep quiet when men are talking because she is a woman. (I can’t for the life of me figure out what that means)

This same girl child grows up respecting the ‘values’ she was taught; sometimes, she ends up falling short of her God given potentials. Yes, I say God given potential because the African woman is born a lioness, a warrior, a conqueror, a pillar of strength and an embodiment of power. Why is she reduced to running just her family when she can be out there running the world? Yet she sometimes get scorned for not soaring when her wings have been broken from childhood.

The fate/plight of the African girl child at the cusp of maturity and modernity is that which is surmounted only by the brave and courageous. Why can’t she be left alone to be her true self, to do that which is pleasing to her without fear of being judged or persecuted?

Can she object to the cultural and traditional expectations of School-marriage-wife-children-dedicated mother-? Can she choose to be single and adopt children or single with no child if it is indeed what she wants? These options are considered normal and not a taboo in the modern society.

Why are her choices in life dependent on what makes other people but her happy?
I hope for the day when the African woman is left to make her own choices without fear or limitations and to blossom in the very essence of womanhood because God has blessed her with immeasurable power and grace to create, nurture and transform.

Photo Credit:  Aham Ibeleme.

Meg Otanwa is a multi-lingual Nigerian actress most famous for her role as Aisha in the ground breaking TV series BEFORE 30 . She schooled in Northern Nigeria and went on to further her education and worked in France and Tunisia before moving back home to join the movie industry. She is passionate about lending her voice to the helpless and philanthropic activities. Follow her on Instagram @megotanwa .

45 Comments

  1. Authentic Sunshine

    August 1, 2015 at 11:08 am

    After the long turanchi, I still see one young hot sexy mama with enviable toned abs. Valid points though…..

  2. Urban intelligence

    August 1, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Lovely piece, my thoughts exactly

  3. A Real Nigerian

    August 1, 2015 at 11:48 am

    When I click on an article like this, I expect it to be well written. But sadly, no effort was put into this article at all.
    Simply just ripping off of Chimamanda in a lazy way.

    • Egusi soup

      August 1, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      You have a point

    • Just saying

      August 1, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Have you ever thought of writing for Bella Naija? You always criticize EVERY article. I would love to see a piece written by you!

      PS: not saying that every article on here is articulate and well written but I have seen some pretty good ones and you still had something “smart” to say

    • Teris

      August 3, 2015 at 9:37 am

      demmitt! i was still contemplating reading the article, you just killed it for me. l8ters.

  4. happygogirl!

    August 1, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Niceeee! D best line ever, stoop so she doesn’t dwarf others, reminds me of “your strenght always remind some people of their weakness.

  5. res-H

    August 1, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Don’t we think this topic has been over-flogged?

    • Tamara

      August 1, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Are you female?

    • Nahum

      August 1, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      How on earth can you say this topic is over flogged? Do you even know what over flogged means? In my opinion, this article is weak and incoherent and does not even address the issue. Women in Nigeria are under siege and the sad thing is that it is weak minds like you that contribute to the sad plight of women. By refusing to acknowledge the issues women face from childhood to womanhood up till we become widows, we will never progress as a nation. Nigeria is destroying her women with this archaic culture of ours and we are all contributors to this destruction by refusing to acknowledge it.

  6. Ada

    August 1, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Oyi, thumbs up for the article!

  7. Girlbeingreal

    August 1, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Everywhere around the world people live their lives, bad stuff, good stuff. The experience of an African female is not particularly unique when you put into consideration experiences people have around the world.. Male or female. Like someone said this is just a lame rip off. And yes, if I think someone in a picture looks ridiculous, I may actually be right. It’s not always about haters dear. Lioness? Please!

    • Sisihawtness

      August 8, 2015 at 7:51 am

      Sadly, you do sound like a hater. Lol!

  8. Evly

    August 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Well done meg, I really enjoyed this article and thought you voiced out thoughts that a lot of females are afraid to talk about for fear of being criticised and called names. Hopefully one day, things will change

  9. Josh

    August 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    This Feminism issue self…we’ve talked about it enough joor…I agree, we need to have gender equality but then the lady that wants to be paid the same wages as a man should be prepared to work just as hard. I don’t understand why a girl whose favourite mantra is ‘what a man can do a woman can do better’, joins every feminist group, cries foul at the latest hint of male dominance would still expect the guy, her ‘so-called -equal’ to open the car door for her and treat her like ‘a lady’.

    Enough talk already, if the female folks want equality, they should step up and take it cos that is what a man would do.

    • Nuna

      August 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      In this you have grossly under estimated how hard women work. Be it in the work place, at home or where ever!. We have to work twice as hard as the menfolk if we have to get half the recognition men get. If you are not a woman I dont expect you to understand so when women talk about issues like this, you can either agree or shut it.

    • Blah blah

      August 2, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      So opening doors is hard work now? Or you are saying feminism = lack of manners on the part of the masculine gender. Women everywhere work hard. In every sector. Many homes are being run by women who make far more money than their partners. I know women who are the men in their homes running things and the men are content to come home to a nice meal. No contribution. Nothing. Can’t and won’t even change a light bulb.
      You men better wake up and smell the coffee. Many of you are penises and sperm donors. Nothing else.
      I love men and I am dating a good man. But I won’t deny the very many useless men I see around. This issue has not been ‘overflogged’. Until we see change we won’t shut up.

  10. Ifeanyi

    August 1, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Are you living in this World at All? Take a Look at the Girls around you right now…Have you ever bothered to consider that an African Woman is the cause and consequence of her own misfortune?
    She never learns to Financial dependent…looking for a Well-to-do-man to marry…looking for the best weeding dress…buying Aso-Ebi every time…BellaNaija Weddings…Lil.. Ask her…How much have you saved? What skills did you learn last Year? What about this Year? Do you have a Mortgage? Have you take out some insurance? Maybe you need to fund your Masters Program? Maybe get a mentor…Start a side Business….Build Extra Cash on the side..Lie…Lie…they are mentally lazy for all dem shit… Looking for a 10,000 Pounds wedding ring…Why not buy it for the man and see how difficult it is…so, I guess you are not in tune with reality…
    On your article..You just painted an Idealistic picture of an Ambitious girl…Ambitious men wants Ambitious Women…As simple as Start…The average Nigeria man is Modern…He wants a girl going somewhere…Has confident in herself and her Financial Future and taking the necessary steps today to build her life…By Herself…..but the bulk of them in Lagos and London cares less than planning her glamorous wedding…without actually planning for the marriage…SmH
    So…I dare repeat it…Most African Ladies are the cause and consequence of their misfortune…Always talking about surviving a misfortune they created for themselves…For them to be a nonconformist…it is the most difficult Vocation there is…

    First step…Do away with all those idle talks and friends…Sit Down…Write Down your Goals…Save Save Save…Invest…Invest…Invest…Spend Less than you earn…Have a Mentor…You can do all these things without a Man..Baby…Get Rich Slowly…Wealth is not build in a day…

    Second Step…I would see you at the Top

    • Nwachidinma

      August 1, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      I love your comment. Yes it’s true we have some archaic doctrine out there but at the end you have look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what vision does one see for themselves. It is not easy thing to do because we have become so accustomed in dwelling in our indequacies. We as women are in control of our lives and destiny at the end of the day.

  11. The Army Within

    August 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    ” It wasn’t well written. Quite alright no effort was put in it”. But for the fact that the topic has become popular, well enough to have been “over – flogged ” in other articles maybe on other blogs, other sites etc. (As was pointed out up above) isn’t reason enough for Your two cents (which you obviously do not seem to have) to be added? Razz!!!!! This is one topic that deserves to be touched, rolled, turned, emphasised as often as possible by whoever understands how degrading as well as inconsiderate our cultural norms are/have been made. Our mothers have lived by these norms for so long that it has become their own standard. They lived to become that “wife” and would do as much as possible to bring up their daughters in the same exact line. This has gone wide and large that half of these norms are considered ” sign of respect” and women who do not live by it are very disrespectful and were not well brought up. E.g “keep quiet when men are talking” The one that had my brows high. Some pastors preach it. It’s a MUSt for a woman who wants to raise a good home. Tamara!! The whole comprise here is why there’s the #BeingfemaleinNigeria.#BeinganIndependentAfricanwoman platform. Even though I’ve chosen from my teenage days to be a woman of my own. Do the much I can as an individual in the process of self -actualization not to be an independent woman first of all, But because I can. As an INDIVIDUAL (emphasis on the word in capital). The thing btw my legs or on my chest do not stop be from fulfilling my desires as human. No, not just as woman, (not a woman, as “woman) but as a human with burning desires to ignite the flame of achieveing !!!!!!!!!! So as much as these women want, they should speak it, As often as they want.

  12. Kevin.

    August 1, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    @The Army Within (Ijawgeh) Can I marry you please? Thank You. The stress placed on that word “Individual” should be made clear to this people. That basically is the whole point of “BeingfemaleinNigeria”.

  13. Cookie Face!

    August 1, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I love You Army within. I could just love you forever for that substitution of that letter “a” woman to “Woman”. Made the whole point clear. Exactly what I thought inside.

  14. Truth

    August 1, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    I didn’t even think anything of the picture. I thought it was an illustrative picture just like the other pictures BN use on some of their posts

    • Dr.N

      August 2, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      Nna, u echoed my thoughts

  15. eni

    August 1, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I agree. As long as they don’t grow up n decide to replace their vaginas with dicks. :/

  16. @edDREAMZ

    August 1, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said..
    .
    Africa is not fair to the woman gender i swear….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  17. Zeeze

    August 1, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    So how does exposing her body help this article? Are you telling me a well dressed woman would not have helped pass your message?

  18. Themmy

    August 1, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I celebrate Womanhood always not just because i am a woman but because i know it takes a little more than the ordinary effort to stand out as a Great Woman in the greatly competitive world we live in.

  19. tilda

    August 1, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    When I look at that picture I just see a modern girl dressed for a night out with friends. And then I read the article and wonder at the hyperactive mind of the writer. Then I tske a real hard look at the picture as advice by the writer and wonder what the f**k that’s got to do with african woman liberation tinz. Mchewwww.

  20. kim kim

    August 1, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Ifeanyi, I respect ur comment…u have just summarised all what I want in life…I want to be independent…I dont wanna stay home and wait for some prince charming to come and marry me…I want to work and be something in life…I am very ambitious and I wont let any culture hinder me and my goals

    • Ifeanyi

      August 1, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      See you at the Top. 🙂

  21. Nwachidinma

    August 1, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    This topic is still valid! Thanks to the author.

  22. EllesarisEllendil

    August 1, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    *Facepalm* African women go to Asian countries not named China, come back and tell me “how back you’ve had it”. In Pre-communist China for example, women had their feet bound!!!. Pre-colonial Africa respected the Woman, Your Grand-Mothers had more rights than their European counterparts.
    You’re merely trying to reclaim the status-quo the colonial masters changed by bringing their “Victorian” attitudes to Africa. FFS learn some history and stop letting Western Feminists brainwash you.

    • natu

      August 2, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      And there are countries in Africa where girls and women undergo circumcision. What is your point exactly?

  23. Netizen

    August 1, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    @ifeanyi where you got it wrong is that there are women out there who want to be independent. But even if you want to be, the society still limits you to the role of a woman. My mom is the main bread-winner in my family and she is still expected to be the ‘woman’ or else all hell will break loose. I’m not advocating for women to be disrespectful when they earn more but they should be respected even if they earn less. I so wanted to be independent while growing up. But now, I’ve decided to face reality. No matter how independent you are, our society still makes you feel less than you are. So what’s the point of trying? You are screwed whether you are independent or not so I might as well take the easy way out. I cannot come and go and die. I’ll still make my money but I don’t think I’m one to be ambitious. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m no super woman. Even men find it hard to be both domestic and corporate minded. Why then should I kill myself as a woman just to prove a point? Wake me up when it’s 2100. Maybe my orientation and the world’s orientation about women would have changed by then. I’ll know if the fight is worth it then.

    • Julia

      August 2, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      You’ve got a point, Netizen. Today’s Nigerian woman is expected to be ambitious, earn a good salary, cook and run the home like a full housewife, respond to her husband’s every whim- sexual, domestic, financial- etc.
      Wetin?
      Nigerian men are now complaining about women asking their Significant Other for money (which I honestly detest), yet, in the same breath, would say they need their Significant Other to cook for them in order to test her cooking skills (eye roll). You don’t want to do the traditional stuff (meeting all her financial needs) yet you want her to do the traditional duty of cooking for you?
      Who’s deceiving who?

      If you want an ambitious woman who’s educated enough to work a full time job, please do well to gain some experience in domestic duties. You (men) know how much regular office job drains you and you just feel like crawling into bed or watching a football match? Guess what? Your woman, who has also worked out of the house is also that drained (maybe more because she’s usually the more emotional being) and feels like crawling into bed or watching Arsenal vs Chelsea (in case you all have forgotten, it’s 3pm WAT today).
      Now, this is where the love our men should show isn’t shown; they should find a way to pitch in to make domestic duties easier, same way she’s pitching in to make the financial burden easier. If this is done, we’ll have less women who nag all of the time, complain about a headache when oga wants to get some loving and look older than their age.
      #makeloveaverb

    • Tosin

      August 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      you have all the points right. implementation tho…

  24. kanayo

    August 2, 2015 at 7:59 am

    The picture just contradicts your message. You could have used the image of a girl child in school uniform, a graduate in full grafuation regalia, or a woman fully dressed heading a board of men. If you were going to talk of men and careers youd have used an image of a man in board suit. He wouldnt have to show any body parts. Image does matter a lot. The girl shown, is oviously not dressed to show off her intelligence, Your message is contradictory. And if I may add your mentality could be part and parcel of the problem.

  25. HerExcellence

    August 2, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    I love love love u Ifeanyi! Biko kwusiike. Well said. Muah!!!

  26. Lapetite

    August 2, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    I am an African female, born and bred in Nigeria and I did not grow up this way?

    • Sisihawtness

      August 8, 2015 at 7:52 am

      My sentiments exactly sha! My parents were the complete opposite and they raised strong women.

  27. Raphael Afaedor

    August 7, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Good job Meg! Always very proud of you. Nice, lucid write-up.

  28. kiki

    August 7, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Great Article Meg! Smoking picture too!

  29. Kunle lawal

    August 7, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Strong…sassy…aware of her sexuality and tune with her wants garnished with confidence

  30. Sniper1

    September 14, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Somethings in life are metaphorical. Meg, lovely writing style and structure. Always remember, life is a choice. The picture is hot and it comes with loads of confidence.

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